Should Rice University's pending sale of KTRU to the University of Houston for use as a classical sister station to KUHF go through, Houston would lose one of its oldest sources of independent, over-the-air music programming. Having sat in KTRU's studio many times as a local artist telling the FM dial about a new album, or just jamming out on one of the station's incredibly awesome live in-studio concerts, we just can't believe it's so.
Word is that the studio will continue it's existence as an Internet-only radio station, and honestly, we are pretty comfortable with that. The spotty signal has always made listening in at KTRU.org a more reliable method of sampling the station's wares. So in that spirit Rocks Off presents a selection of our favorite Internet stations, in no particular order.
1. RED BAR RADIO There is no talk radio in Houston that does not send Rocks Off into a homicidal rage, so we're very glad that Mike David's Red Bar Radio is available every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. David and his various comedian friends take the entirety of the pop-culture world around them, give it, an atomic wedgie, and leave it dangling from the basketball hoop. The site is currently being redone, but will be back up and running very soon. Note: Nothing is sacred. Nothing.
2. PUNK RADIO CAST When Sirius swallowed XM, one of the truly unfortunate casualties was the punk station Fungus. We never really knew how much we missed it until it was gone. Well, Punk Radio Cast is a pretty good substitution. Danny Keyes started the station at the age of 15 in 1999 in his parents' basement, and has steadily built the station into a punk-rock juggernaut that brings the pogo right onto your desktop. Live performances have become a staple of the station, and have hosted luminaries like The Queers, Clit 45. Michael Graves and the Riverboat Gamblers.
3. NIGHTBREED RADIO Rocks Off Sr. gave this assignment to the resident goth, so you better count yourselves lucky that this list includes any radio not based around PVC and eyeliner. Still, we're gonna talk spooky music, and when we talk spooky music we talk Nightbreed Radio. Formerly Radio Nightbreed - we don't know, don't ask - the station is simply the coolest place to hear both the '80s and '90s classics that drew us into the black velvet apocalypse, as well as new underground stuff that is the future of the movement. No matter what your taste in evil is, there's plenty to be found here.
4. RADIO 29-95 We're sorry, but there is no denying that the place to hear Houston music online is over at the pop blog arm of the Houston Chronicle. If the last HPMAs taught us anything, it's that there really is a huge amount of local talent in the Houston music scene, and some absolutely incredible work being put out. Plus, the site hosts a nice pop-out player that lets you navigate right back here to read Rocks Off while still enjoying the music. Of course, at the moment we're stuck in an 11-minute jazz-fusion song, so maybe the playlist could use a little tweaking.
5. CHRONIX RADIO ChroniX Radio is actually three stations in one, just in case you get tired of hard rock and need something more firmly metal. Regardless, what is going on at the site is the best in music to use in a fight scene. Having a young daughter, Rocks Off hears an awful lot of songs about caring and sharing, and these are admirable qualities to learn about in song form, but by the time we hit the desk in the morning the only thing we want to hear is the sound of drums, bass, guitars and vocal chords being abused like they were in a Lifetime movie. Thank you ChroniX, for a the legally prescribed amount of our daily AAAARRRRRRRRGGGGGHHHHH!
6. YOUTUBE We sense some of you's getting ready to call bullshit, but just give us a second, OK? A fairly typical day driving to work in Houston involves us turning off the radio in disgust. We did so this morning, and right as we pulled into a parking space we realized we hadn't heard Nick Cave's "Fifteen Feet of Pure White Snow" in a while. So we sat down and cued up the video on YouTube.
The video reminded us of Tori Amos's "Raspberry Swirl" so we searched and played it next. If you're gonna play Tori, you've got to play "Hey Jupiter," which put us in a sad-bastard piano music kind of mood, so we next up was Gary Jules' cover of "Mad World." YouTube has become one of the foremost music players, with audio and visual available for almost anything available right at your fingertips in any order you please. That's why it makes the list, though it's not really internet radio.
7. SUBTERRANEAN RADIO We got turned onto this awesome three-hour weekly show out of Chicago when a Black Math Experiment fan in that city told us that we were being made fun of on the show. So we downloaded the episode that "You Cannot Kill David Arquette" played on and found that to be true... sort of. First thing we noticed was that Mick Cullen and Carl Cutler put out a really, really good alternative show that utterly stretches the boundaries of an already eclectic genre.
Second, was that after our song played the hosts admitted that it was actually a pretty good tune. Now every Friday morning we download the show in MP3 form and just let the wave of great tunes wash over us. Several bands, Delta Mirror first among them, have become some of our favorite new acts. If you're really gonna miss KTRU, then Subterranean Radio is one of those shows that could help salve the wound.
8. RADIO FREE CRUZE Try if you can to imagine 94.5 The Buzz without that miasma of corporate America pervading every kilowatt, and you would have Radio Free Cruze. It's mission statement is to give corporate radio the finger - we assume they mean the rude one - and they do a fairly good job of it. The station is rapidly on it's way to becoming the number one radio alternative station, and it certainly deserves it.
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9. TORMENTED RADIO Go, stompy music go! There are few things in this world better than music that sounds like somebody kicking a running dishwasher, and that's just what you get with Tormented Radio. They play Combichrist, Xymox, VNV Nation, and all those other bands they were the inspiration behind the League of Extraordinary Retards. It's Numbers on your computer! It's riveting. Get it? Rivet... never mind. It's the music of rage forged in the kilns of Stompdor, so you just better listen.
Why on Earth we started listening to this podcast out of Israel we will never know, but every time we check in on it and give a listen there is something wonderful. Part of it is Guy David's odd, yet incredibly soothing voice musing on surreality, and part of it is his never-failing acumen for finding the best weird music in the depths of the Podsafe network. We would be hard pressed to name another podcast we could just sit quietly at the computer and listen to with a glass of wine and ever-growing sense of peace.
11. UC RADIO We've been listening to UC radio for almost four years now, and there cannot be a better example of the pirate-radio mindset. Mike Yusi puts together very tight programs that revolve around pop culture, current events, and a hell of a lot of good music. We know no other radio station where you'd hear Jefferson Airplane and Absinthe in the same block. Plus, they have great deals set up for listeners to cash in on a ton of free and discounted music. All and all, UC Radio may be the archetype for a successful podcast.